Just Cause 2 - hands-on

The first order of business in Just Cause 2 isn’t to steal a car, or motorcycle, or ATV, or fighter jet, or attack chopper. It isn’t to go exploring the miles and miles of jungles, mountains, and cities. No, first you must wrap your head around the grappling hook and parachute. Sure, you could just run out there and attempt to traverse the landscape in the familiar way you’re used to – namely, running, jumping, and driving – but it’s horribly inefficient.

See, maneuver #1 to etch into the muscle memory is the “grapple ground, deploy parachute” technique. While often you’ll find plenty of vertical surfaces to grab with Rico’s arm-mounted grappling hook, the easiest target is the ground right in front of you. Pop off the hook, let it drag you forward, and then open your parachute. Even if you only grapple to the ground a few feet in front of you, the ‘chute will gain a huge amount of lift and you’ll be soaring in seconds. It’s the game’s equivalent to the Super Jump, and will be the most-used method for traversal.

Moving from this to other methods for grappling, free-falling, and parachuting takes some rewiring of brain cells. We were so used to traditional methods of getting around, we found ourselves running and jumping pathetically in the middle of battle when we could have been flying about like a psychotic and heavily armed squirrel. It reminds us of Prototype in that you have to learn the game’s grammar of movement to become proficient. A big part of the fun is going from awkward, stuttering leaps and glides to the fluidity of Ninja Spider-Man.

For one mission we had to infiltrate a mountain-top base and steal some secret info. We jacked some guy’s bike and took off along a cliff-side road. At first we were going to drive up the road to the base, which we could see in the distance, but then said “F it,” and just drove off the cliff, deployed the ‘chute, and floated over a massive gorge. As we approached the mountainside, we shot out the grappling hook, using it to pull Rico along and gain altitude. We ended up sneaking into the base from the backside, straight up the cliff face, where the enemy would never suspect.

Once in the base, it wasn’t long before the enemy discovered us. Here the combat revealed its somewhat loose, forgiving nature. The aiming and shooting feels a bit insubstantial, as if you’re shooting balloons instead of people. Something about it doesn’t quite have the tightness and sense of impact you’d find in a really polished shooter. However, we can see why the designers went this route – the standard restrictions of physics would hamper the main fun, which is zipping around and using the human targets as toys.

We’ve mentioned before how you can tether two enemies together, or hang them from light poles, or yank them over balconies. We also discovered that the grappling hook serves as a vicious, bloody flail-like melee weapon. We got to see a hilarious sequence where Rico is in a car chase along a bridge and must leap from one vehicle to the next. At one point, Rico jumped onto the roof of a Humvee, yanked one of the passengers out, tethered the fool to the back of another SUV, then watched the poor sap get dragged along the asphalt by the car. Of course, Rico did some target practice on the guy to finish him off. Then, for some more fun, he grappled the front of a chasing truck, then tethered the other end to the side of the bridge. The resulting elastic tension created a spectacular crash with the trucking flipping and bouncing end-over end.

Matthew Keast
My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.